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Seven steps to success: your checklist for starting a business in the UK

Stay on track and lay solid foundations with our handy seven-step checklist for starting a business.

Seven steps to success: your checklist for starting a business in the UK

Founding a business can feel exciting and overwhelming, especially if you haven’t launched a limited company or partnership before. Whichever structure you choose, it’s important to lay the groundwork for future growth. But what should you prioritise? 


We'll begin this guide by answering a few key questions, then follow with a checklist for starting a business in the UK. 


How do you start a business in the UK? 

To start a business in the UK, you need a good idea, a company name and a registered address (which can be your home). Beyond that, requirements depend on the business structure you choose. 


Many entrepreneurs register limited companies: in that case, you’ll need to name at least one director, who’ll be responsible for running the business in accordance with the Companies Act 2006. Limited companies can have other “officers”, too, including multiple directors, a secretary and other shareholders.   


Not sure what kind of business you want to register? Read our guide to the six main business structures in the UK.  


Do you need a business licence in the UK? 

Some types of businesses need a licence in the UK, but many don’t. Where applicable, business licences are usually issued by a local authority or a specific government body – childcare providers, for example, must register with Ofsted. 


Here are a few examples of companies that need business licences in the UK:


  • Financial product and services businesses: apply to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). 

  • Businesses that sell alcohol: personal and premises licences come from the local authority.  

  • Driver training businesses: you’ll need a permit from the DVLA


You may also need to get other licences – for example, if you plan to play music in your shop or at an event, you’ll need to apply for a permit from the PPL PRS


Not sure if you need a licence or not? Use GOV.UK’s handy search tool to find out.  


Your ultimate checklist for starting a business 

Ready to build your empire? Let’s break the process down into seven steps with our checklist for starting a business. 


Step 1. Research your idea, and the market 

Every business begins with an idea, which evolves into a unique selling proposition (USP). Researching your target marketplace – in this case, the UK – is key here. Before pursuing a new venture, analyse the competition and try to create a niche for yourself.  


Think about what makes your company different:  


  • Does your business fulfil a genuine consumer need? 

  • Is there a gap in the market? 

  • What do you offer that others don’t?  

  • Who are your potential clients? 

  • How will you reach your clients? 


Developing a clear, communicative USP, then distilling it into one or two sentences can help you focus and explain your business to peers, financiers and customers. Here are a few inspirational examples: 


  • Hubspot. “Grow better with Hubspot.” 

  • Shopify. “The platform commerce is built on.” 

  • FedEx. “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” 


We mentioned business licences above, but it’s also important to think about business insurance, including public liability insurance, which can protect you when unexpected events happen (customer or workplace injuries, and theft, for example).  


Finally, it’s a good idea to look at the tax structure for your chosen business setup. Doing this can help you prepare registration documents for corporation tax.  


Step 2. Write a thorough business plan 

Writing a business plan can help you stay on track while setting your company up – and beyond. Most business plans contain seven sections: 


  1. Executive summary. An introduction to your company, its mission and basic framework. 

  2. Company overview. Your target market, short and long-term goals, plus performance history. 

  3. Products and services. A detailed, engaging explanation of what you offer and why it’s unique. 

  4. Market analysis. An organised summary of the market research you’ve conducted. 

  5. Marketing strategy. How you plan to tell consumers about the merits of your products and services.  

  6. Organisational structure. A snapshot of the current company leadership and management structure, plus information about future hiring plans. 

  7. Financial plan. The company’s historical financial data, current financial status and projected income. 


A thorough and compelling business plan can help you gain funding from banks and investors, too. We’ll touch on that below. 


Step 3. Look at funding options 

Start-up costs vary widely, but one thing’s for sure: all new businesses need investment of some kind or another. Here, we’ll cover some of the main funding options for startups and company expansion projects. 


Business loans and start-up grants 

Many new businesses use loans and grants to get off the ground. With a solid business plan in hand, you may be able to obtain working capital via a bank; start-up grants, meanwhile, come from a range of different sources.  


Tip: Search for government grants on the GOV.UK website. Read this handy guide for more information about available private grants. 


Crowdfunding 

Many companies – even well-known brands like Brewdog and Oculus – use crowdfunding to launch new initiatives. Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are easy to navigate and make it simple to set up an online fundraising campaign.  


Asset finance 

You may be able to use asset finance to buy machinery, vehicles and other large items for your business. This can help reduce the cost of launching your company because it means you won’t have to buy expensive equipment outright.  


Investors and venture capitalists 

If you’re willing to make a deal in exchange for funding, one option is to seek private equity via angel investment or venture capital. In either case, you’ll need to present compelling reasons to invest in your company.  


The advantages of private equity extend beyond money: both angel investors and venture capitalists bring insight and experience to the table. However, they almost always expect a measure of control or a return on investment in exchange for providing funds.  


Financial management 

No matter which other funding options you choose, careful financial management is a must when starting a business. The right business account can help you track expenses, income and other metrics so you can make better financial projections and sounder business decisions. 


Some business owners open business bank accounts, while others open multi-currency accounts with FCA-authorised providers like Interpolitan Money. Still others spread risk by opening traditional bank accounts and alternative accounts.  


Some of the biggest advantages of an Interpolitan multi-currency account include: 


  • Quick setup: Open an account in 7-10 days, rather than months. 

  • Unique IBAN: Make and receive payments, just like a local. 

  • Dedicated account manager: Get support when you need it. 

  • 55+ currencies: Transact in more than 160 countries. 


Tip: If you’re an intermediary working on behalf of a business owner outside the United Kingdom, get in touch to find out how we can help you. 


Step 4. Pick a name and register your business 

With market research, a business plan and funding under your belt, it’s time to choose a company name. Make no mistake: this is a big decision.  After all, your business name sits at the centre of your brand identity, so it must be unique, memorable, make a good impression and resonate with your target audience.  


Simple, relevant names are easier to recall, so they contribute significantly to brand recognition and consumer trust. In today’s competitive business landscape, it’s important to build a strong, recognisable presence.  


Before making a final decision, research your potential company name on Companies House. If you have a slogan in mind, make sure it’s not trademarked – and check if the corresponding domain name is available.  


How to register a business with Companies House 

It’s relatively straightforward to register a business with Companies House if you have a business address and the right documents to hand. Here’s a snapshot of what you’ll need to complete an IN01 form: 


  • Your business name, company type and principal activities. 

  • Your registered office, including its address. 

  • Your articles of association. 

  • Information about people with “significant control”, including directors. 

  • A statement of share capital, if applicable, plus initial shareholdings. 


For a more thorough overview, read our guide to registering a company in the UK


Step 5. Begin building your brand 

Most successful brands have compelling mission statements as well as solid USPs. Everything they do stems from a central kernel of branding “truth”.  


You don’t need to wait to craft a brand identity: in fact, it’s best to solidify your company “personality” before launch, then use it to make an impact on the market from the very beginning.  


Everything, from the fonts you use to the colours you favour, plays into your brand ID. You can cement your choices in a brand identity guide, including these sections: 


  • Mission and values. Your company mission and its core values. 

  • Slogan. A brief, catchy, consumer-focused statement highlighting your company benefits. 

  • Colours. Your colour palette, including hex codes (and Pantone equivalents). 

  • Typefaces. The fonts you intend to use in print marketing and online.  

  • Logo. Various forms of your logo, including acceptable colour combinations.  

  • Voice. Your company tone of voice – casual, formal or somewhere in between – including language and style guidelines.  


A well-written brand guide can help you maintain a cohesive identity whenever you create new content, whether online (your website, for example) or in print. 


Step 6. Officially launch your business 

At some stage, it’ll be time to tell the world about your new venture. Some founders launch their companies quietly, while others choose to make a big splash with social media announcements or magazine ads. Your strategy will depend on your budget and business plan. 


Want to generate a buzz? Consider these ideas: 


  • Organise a giveaway. Capture leads and drum up interest with a competition.  

  • Create a pre-launch landing page. Before launching your main site, hype your business with a placeholder landing page. 

  • Distribute freebies. Give influencers early (and free) access to your products or services. 

  • Share sneak peeks. Use social media accounts to show followers behind-the-scenes images and product teasers. 

  • Build an email campaign. Nurture new leads with a pre-launch email campaign. 


Step 7. Put your customers first  

One of the most important parts of our checklist for starting a business actually happens after launch. Consumers have a lot of choice in the marketplace and appreciate companies that offer excellent customer service. Concentrating on this aspect of your business can help you build a solid reputation and stay afloat, even in hard times. 


Word-of-mouth is still one of the most effective and enduring marketing strategies you can implement. According to research, 90% of people trust recommended brands, even when those suggestions come from strangers. Globally, word-of-mouth marketing is responsible for 13% of all sales: that’s $6 trillion in worldwide revenue. 


Over time, a loyal customer base can help you paint a clearer picture of the future and make better financial projections, which you can use to promote your company to investors.  


At Interpolitan, we take customer service seriously for all the reasons mentioned above. All our clients get tailored solutions, dedicated account managers and 24/7 support via email and telephone.  


Get set for success with Interpolitan 

Opening an Interpolitan alternative bank account can help you do business in the UK and abroad, plus reduce your time to market in new regions. You’ll be able to transact in over 55 currencies across the world, track analytics, and much more. Best of all, because Interpolitan is regulated by the FCA, you can rest assured that every transaction is compliant. 


Interpolitan delivers flexible and comprehensive alternative banking solutions by blending cutting-edge technology with personalised service. Learn more about us or open an account today

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